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Farewell Symphony

average rating is 4 out of 5


Chris Olson


Posted on:

Feb 14, 2022

Film Reviews
Farewell Symphony
Directed by:
Xiwen Miao
Written by:
Xiwen Miao
Qunxi Wang, Joy Sung Kim, Anne Ruttencutter, Jianshe Zhou

“Brave women always pay a higher price.”

Having recently interviewed filmmaker Xiwen Miao, I jumped at the chance to watch (and review) one of her short films. Farewell Symphony is a sumptuous and aching portrayal of life’s journeys and the loyalties we have to face, and break, if we are to ever find happiness.

Qunxi Wang plays the younger version of the lead role Yang Yang, a talented cellist whose family expects her to toe a life of preordained expectations. When she defies them and moves to New York to pursue her dream of playing music, we can see the sacrifice still troubling her decades later through the life of older Yang Yang (played by Joy Sung Kim).

Farewell Symphony is full of beautifully short music sequences, such as younger Yang Yang furiously playing her cello after a disastrous dinner with her family, or the older version playing solo on a stage without an audience. These scenes are the true highlight of the short film, Miao seems completely capable of mesmerising her audience with a few simple ingredients.

The scenes between the older Yang Yang and her partner Maria (played brilliantly by Anne Ruttencutter) are perhaps the most emotionally affecting. With Maria’s ailing health clearly provoking a multitude of buried hurts for our protagonist, it is their loving affection for each other that becomes a much-needed antidote to the cruel abandonment shown to younger Yang Yang by her parents (Yuebo Wang and Xiaolan Wang). But the crossroads that our lead finds herself in seems just as crushing as her one decades ago, whether to continue to pursue her musical career at the cost of leaving those closest to her.

It’s a film that deftly touches upon expected gender roles and social conventions without ever needing to spell it out for the viewer. Yang Yang’s numerous dilemmas create instant empathy from an audience who will understand to varying degrees the expectations thrown on to them by their own family members. The migration that the central character takes is also key. The idea of uprooting one’s self to another country in order to pursue a dream is hard enough, let alone when her loved ones condemn her for it. This severed connection plays out particularly brilliantly with the Grandpa character, expertly played by Jianshe Zhou.

Farewell Symphony is a subtle family drama with a rich musical tapestry that makes it engrossing for the audience throughout. There are a few bum notes along the way, such as some wooden dialogue being performed in the dinner scene but these are far and few between. Largely, Miao composes a generously engaging story and then delivers it spectacularly on the parallel stages of young life and older life.

About the Film Critic
Chris Olson
Chris Olson
Short Film, World Cinema
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